Good News! MSDA’s Annual Field Day — a FUN day of field work for bird dogs of all experience and skill levels — is scheduled for Saturday April 17 at Rebel Ridge Farms in Elkton, MD.
Although we are very hopeful, due to the pandemic, we are not yet able to fully commit to holding Field Day this year. We expect to make a final decision no later than mid-March. Because of this, we are starting to post information but are not yet accepting paid registrations. We encourage you to add your name to our “I’m Interested” list (below) to give us an idea of how many people are potentially interested. In return, those on the list will receive the first notice when registrations do open. Since it’s possible that the number of people attending this year will be limited, this could help make sure you get the session(s) you want.
To help keep everyone safe, we will be screening for Covid-19 symptoms at the entrance and will be requiring people to wear masks and practice social distancing whenever possible. Also, we will not be using the clubhouse at Rebel Ridge, will be actively discouraging mingling between groups, and will ask everyone to bring their own lunch, snacks, and drinks for the day. More details about safety precautions are listed below, but if you are not comfortable with spending a day with other humans or are not willing to cheerfully comply with the rules, please do not sign up to attend Field Day this year.
To keep all working groups small, Field Day will be divided into morning and afternoon sessions. The schedule for the day will be as follows:
8:00-8:30 Check-in for morning
8:30-11:30 Morning sessions
11:30-12:30 Lunch break and transition; check-in for afternoon
12:30-3:30 Afternoon sessions
3:30-4:00 Clean-up and departure
The Pointing and Retrieving groups will be operating identical sessions in morning and afternoon, so you can pick either one (or both) to suit your schedule. The Flushing group will limit the morning session to Beginner and Intermediate dogs; the afternoon Flushing session will be for Intermediate and Advanced. For all sessions, we are scheduling plenty of volunteers and limiting group sizes so that participants will get lots of attention without too much waiting around. Each session (e.g., Morning Flushing, Afternoon Pointing) will be limited to ten dogs.
Though activities are targeted at Sporting Group dogs who are interested in hunting, hunt tests, and field trials, Field Day welcomes all “birdy” dogs.
Field Day is designed to accommodate everyone from true beginner dogs who have never met a bird to experienced hunters. Please feel free to contact one of our group leaders (listed below) if you have questions about specific activities.
Fees are $10 per handler for the day, plus $30 per dog per session (i.e., morning or afternoon). Birds are included in the per-dog fee for all groups and levels from True Beginner to Advanced. All gunners will be provided by MSDA.
You do not have to be a club member to attend Field Day. Like most other MSDA events, it is open to all dog-lovers.
Field Day 2020 was cancelled due to Covid, but here are a few pictures from previous years.
Rebel Ridge Farms is a private property located in northeastern Maryland and has:
- 250+ acres of specially-managed sporting dog training areas connected by a driveway that runs the length of the property
- Eight major field areas, up to 1,000 feet long, with low to medium cover
- Four large ponds and several smaller ones
- Property edged by large trees and dense cover
- Parking adjacent to each of the fields and ponds
Field Day is divided into groups according to hunting style: Flushing, Pointing, and Retrieving. Group leaders and volunteers include very experienced handlers, hunters, hunt test judges, trainers and gunners. Group activities and individual attention for you and your dog(s) are based on your training goals for the day. Field Day is set up to be attentive to each dog’s experience and needs, rather than running all dogs through a standard set of drills. We will keep the groups small so that everyone gets plenty of time and attention. Birds will be provided and are included in the per-dog fee for the session.
For Field Day 2021, each handler will choose one (and only one) group and stay with that group for the day. Visiting and mingling between groups is not encouraged this year. With the exception of Beginner Flushing (which is only available in the morning) and Advanced Flushing (which is only available in the afternoon), you may sign up for morning or afternoon sessions, or both.
Below is some more information about specific activities and goals for the Flushing, Pointing, and Retrieving groups. The descriptions and examples are deliberately general. Group leaders will be aware of individual dogs’ needs and experience (based on what you enter on your registration form and from conversations with you), and will organize their groups and activities accordingly. If you are unsure about which group or level your dog belongs in, you can check “not sure” on the registration form and a Field Day committee member will get in touch with you. Meanwhile, please read the descriptions below and feel free to contact any of the group leaders if you have questions.
Flushing will be explicitly divided into two sub-groups: “Beginner/ Intermediate” and “Advanced”. Beginner activities for the flushing group will only be available during the morning session. Intermediate will be offered both morning and afternoon. Advanced Flushing will only be available in the afternoon session.
Beginner/Intermediate Flushing: There will be demonstrations, individual and group activities to work on quartering, flushing, and basic retrieving skills with both land and water work. With a true beginner dog, we may start out allowing the dog to chase down a bird. Once the prey drive has been ramped up, the next step would be to flush a bird with a starter pistol fired in the background. The dog might then get to flush a bird which the gunner would shoot, if possible. Dogs who are already familiar with birds and live fire will benefit from more advanced skill drills and may practice finding, flushing and retrieving a shot bird. Training with bumpers on land and water will fill out the session for those who are not ready for actual hunting. If your dog has never met a bird or has not been exposed to gunfire, please check off “Beginner” on the registration form. If your dog has some experience with birds and has been exposed to gunfire but is not ready to enter a hunt test, please check off “Intermediate” on the registration form. Steve Roth will be leading the Beginner/Intermediate Flushing group.
Advanced Flushing: The Advanced Flushing area will be set up like a hunt test. Find, flush, and retrieve birds. Also, practice marked and blind retrieves, with water work at an adjacent pond. Handlers in the Advanced Flushing group will be expected to be able to handle their dogs largely on their own, although a volunteer mentor will serve as a mock judge to offer observations and guidance if desired, but dogs will not be scored. MSDA will provide experienced gunners. (Handlers may not do their own shooting.) Handlers should know what they want to work on and how many birds they would like to have for the session. Handlers signing up for Advanced Flushing will be asked to contact the group’s leader, Steve Surprenant, before paying their invoice. Unlike the other Field Day groups, the per-dog fee for Advanced Flushing explicitly includes three chukars, and Advanced Flushing handlers may purchase up to three additional chukars. Steve can help you with your bird order.
Morning and afternoon Pointing Group sessions will be the same, so you may sign up for either one (or both).
For beginner and intermediate pointing dogs, there will be no live fire. Activities will focus on heeling, quartering, and bird work drills. All dogs will participate as a group in each drill on a check cord (long rope attached to your dog), and will have the opportunity to also have an introduction to backing as participants in these drills. If interested and ready, your dog can be introduced to a cap gun. Beginner and intermediate participants are encouraged to also watch the Advanced dogs work.
Advanced pointing dogs are those with a reliable recall and exposure to live fire. A backing dog will be available and birds will be in launchers. A cap gun or live fire will be used. Dogs can run in braces and practice retrieving. We encourage advanced handlers to assist/mentor the beginner and intermediate handlers.
Sally Eck is the leader of the Pointing Group.
Morning and afternoon Retrieving Group sessions will be the same, so you may sign up for either one (or both).
For beginning and intermediate retrievers, we will have individual and group exercises with bumpers and live birds. We can work on basic retrieving skills, learn what obedience skills are needed, and introduce dogs to land and water marks. We may introduce gunfire to those who feel their dog is ready. All dogs without a reliable recall are required to work on a longline or checkline attached to the dog’s collar.
Advanced retrieving dogs are those with exposure to dead or live birds and at least basic land/water retrieving skills. Land and water exercises may be done with and without gunfire. There will be no live flyers, however, without prior permission from trainers and gunners. Advanced dogs may focus on single, double and triple retrieves, blind retrieves and honors. If there is time, we can also accommodate those looking to practice special skills such as tolling. Advanced dogs should arrive at the field with a plan and their training goals for the day. More experienced handlers also are expected to share their expertise with the beginner and intermediate handlers and dogs.
Gary and Sherry Seibel are leading the Retrieving Group.
Where to Stay:
With the availability of afternoon sessions, we are hoping that few people will need to arrive the night before Field Day and stay in a hotel. However, we will be updating our hotel list soon in case some are interested in an overnight trip.
Those who travel with an RV, camper or tent are directed to Lums Pond State Park in Bear DE, about a 10-minute drive from Rebel Ridge Farms. (Lums Pond reservations tend to fill up quickly.) Note that Rebel Ridge is private property and does not provide overnight parking or camping.
Other Important Information:
This event will be held rain or shine! Fortunately, our relatively late cancellation deadline (Wednesday 4/14) leaves time for you to check the weather forecast and change your mind without penalty.
For safety reasons, blaze orange clothing (not just a hat) is strongly recommended for all participants and guests, and is required in fields with live fire. We will have a very limited number of plain blaze orange short-sleeve t-shirts available for purchase ($5 cash or check) at the property entrance.
Even in the spring, it’s important to bring shade for your dog to rest and plenty of cold water to drink in the field. The perimeter of the property is forested and there is intermittent shade along the edges of fields and in the parking areas near the clubhouse. However, many cars (and people and dogs) will be spending time in unshaded areas that can become hot on a sunny day.
This is Not a “Normal” Field Day:
If you have attended a previous Field Day and want to know how this year will be different, here are some key points:
- Lots of health precautions this year
- No clubhouse access
- Half day, rather than full day, sessions to keep groups smaller (but busier!)
- No free “guests”: all humans pay the $10 handler fee.
- No potluck lunch, CGC testing, or shared seminars (e.g., about e-collars)
- No raffle and no custom Field Day t-shirts
- Per-dog fee has been raised to cover higher costs of birds
- Advanced Flushing group may purchase additional birds
- Probably no “Work-On-Your-Own” Group
Pandemic Mitigation Steps:
We’re not yet sure exactly what procedures will be required, but here are the most likely precautions:
- A mask covering your nose and mouth will be required except when eating, gunning, running your dog, or presenting to a group.
- Social distancing (6′ minimum) from anyone not in your household will be required when not wearing a mask and is recommended at all times.
- Hand sanitizer stations will be available – please make generous use of them.
- Attendees will complete a short “symptom checklist” upon arrival to ensure that they do not have common Covid-19 symptoms.
- There may be temperature checks (using a remote thermometer) at the property entrance.
- There will be no access to the clubhouse interior.
- Each group (Flushing, Pointing, Retrieving) will be assigned the use of one port-o-john.
- There should be little or no mingling or movement between groups (Flushing, Pointing, Retrieving). One person may not volunteer for, or participate in, more than one group.
- There will be no shared lunch and no shared group activities (such as CGC testing, raffle, or e-collar seminar) that would encourage people to mix and mingle.
- All attendees must sign an MSDA liability release.
- All rules apply even to those who have been partially or fully vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2.
- Anyone not complying with these rules at Field Day will be directed to leave, and no refund will be given.
How to Sign Up:
For now, we just ask you to put your name on a list so we can gauge the level of interest in this year’s Field Day and send you an email when registrations open.
Once we’re sure we can hold Field Day, registrations will be available right here online. After completing the registration form, including selecting your working group and level, you will receive a confirmation email, usually within 24 hours. An actual human reviews every registration form, so the confirmation does not arrive instantly. If we have any questions or you mark “not sure” about your group or level, we will contact you before sending the confirmation. The confirmation email contains a unique link to an online invoice (at Square.com). You can pay quickly and securely online using a credit card or you may mail a check. All registrations and payments must be received no later than Wednesday, April 14th. Until then, you may cancel and receive a full refund. After Wednesday 4/14, refunds will only be given if your dog/bitch becomes sick or injured, goes into heat, or if you (the human) becomes ill or has been exposed to Covid-19 (or other contagious disease). To receive a refund after 4/14, you must notify the Event Chair no later than noon on Field Day. Please please do not try to attend Field Day if you might be contagious!